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Advertising Age has a terrific story about Dan Farrell, senior VP-sales and marketing with the St. Louis Cardinals, whose role is to make sure the off-the-field product - meaning the customer experience at Busch Stadium - is excellent, regardless of how well the Cards are playing (which is usually pretty well).

"It's no secret that despite operating within the unpredictable nature of baseball, the Cardinals boast some very winning stats," the story says. "They're the second most attended home team in baseball and saw 3.5 million attendees walk through the front gates over the last two seasons. While credit is certainly due to the players on the field, Farrell and his marketing sluggers have also created a must-do experience that keeps fans rooting for the home team inside the stadium."

Farrell tells Ad Age that the Cardinals "operate Busch Stadium based on the premise that attending a baseball game in our ballpark ranks as one of the premier attractions and serves as a genuine destination for millions of fans throughout the Midwest." While the team has a large and dedicated fan base that attends as many as 10 games a year, there also are a million people who go to a game there for the first time each year, "meaning that there are plenty of first-timers to impress with 'the highest quality guest experience possible'."

The focus is on "cleanliness, food and beverage quality and service, safe and secure atmosphere, helpful and outgoing usher staff, entertaining scoreboard and fan engagement initiatives for pre-game and between innings, efficient ease of access, etc." The team makes sure that it is constantly measuring its effectiveness, and Farrell says, "If we have a specialty, I believe it comes from a dedicated and very tenured staff that strive for superior customer service with a keen attention to detail."
KC's View:
And never resting on its laurels.

As I've mentioned here before, I've been to all but two of the major league ballparks in the US, and I've always enjoyed my visits to both the old and new Busch stadiums. (It helps that I've usually been in the company of the incomparable Joanie Taylor.)

Both major league and minor league ballparks have gotten much better over the years because they understand the strong competition for the entertainment dollar - it isn't enough just to put a product on the field, just like it isn;t enough for a store to just have product on the shelves. The environment has to be differentiated and compelling, and reflect a unique brand identity. Otherwise, what's the point?